Cochlear Implants Diagnosis, Treatment & Rehabilitation

The Cochlear Implant Program at Lurie Children’s provides a multidisciplinary approach to treating children with hearing loss. We have more than 20 years of experience observing the changes that cochlear implantation makes possible for children of all ages.

We have significant experience working with children using a variety of communication methods before and after implantation, and who have complicating medical conditions and developmental delays. In addition to expertise with infants and toddlers, we have worked extensively with adolescents. The families we work with are multicultural. We have experience serving bilingual families including those with limited English proficiency.

Each child should have the opportunity to develop to their full potential. Therefore, we evaluate each child as an individual. We have experience working with children of all ages, using all types of communication methods and technologies. We work with public and private schools, mainstream and special education teachers, as well as private therapists to ensure your child's success. 

The following is a detailed explanation of the cochlear implantation process, from testing to life after surgery. For more information about cochlear implants, view our list of frequently asked questions.

What to Expect at the First Appointment

At your child's first consultation, we provide more information about cochlear implantation and the evaluation process. We ask permission to obtain your child's school records, and to speak with your child's private therapists and school professionals. We can also arrange for you to speak with other families whose children have already received an implant.

Please be prepared to provide us with the name and address of your child's pediatrician or family doctor, as well as any other medical specialists involved in your child's care. We also request that you provide us with copies of your child's vaccination records.

Testing & Diag​nosis

Specialized audiologic testing (speech perception tests) will be needed to confirm your child's implant candidacy. We have expertise in providing whatever type of testing would be best suited to confirming your child’s diagnosis of hearing loss and degree of benefit from amplification. Behavioral testing during which your child’s responses to sound are always a part of the evaluation process. 

However, infants and difficult to test children can be accurately evaluated using auditory brainstem response (ABR) testing. We are the largest referral center in Illinois for ABR testing and use advanced methods and equipment. We will review prior ABR testing your child may have received and will determine if further ABR testing at Lurie Children’s is needed. Depending on the results of your child’s hearing evaluations, hearing aids may be loaned to your child during the evaluation process. 

We typically recommend your child be evaluated by one of our cochlear implant team speech and language pathologists. We will also communicate with your child’s local therapist and/or school professionals who are familiar with their progress. We then determine if your child will do better with an implant in one or both ears or should continue to use hearing aids.

Once we have determined that your child would benefit from a cochlear implant, imaging studies will be  scheduled. A special magnetic resonance (MR) study is typically recommended and in some instances a CT scan.  

Most families begin the cochlear implant evaluation process by working with one of our audiologists who specialize in cochlear implants. However, you may choose to meet with our surgeon, Dr. Young, at any point during the preoperative evaluation period. She will meet with you again closer to the surgery date to answer any additional questions.

The preoperative consultation and audiologic testing, the medical consultation, surgery and postoperative programming are available at Lurie Children’s Main Hospital in Chicago and at our outpatient center in Westchester.

Please note: Young or difficult-to-test children may require multiple appointments to complete required speech perception testing. The order of these evaluations may be changed to meet your child's needs. For families coming from a distance, it is possible to schedule multiple evaluations over several days. We can also help you find local accommodations. Learn more about staying in Chicago.​

Care Coordination

We serve many children with complex medical conditions. We provide care coordination to ensure that your child is ready for implant surgery.

Our team will work with your child's hearing and speech therapist, or you may choose to receive these services from one of our therapists. We also provide parents with information about communication options, as well as therapists and schools that will help children benefit fully from their implant.

During Surgery

We provide your child with a safe, effective and timely surgery using a minimal incision. Our surgeon has personally performed more than 1,000 implantations. Our anesthesiology faculty is focused solely on caring for children.

After Surgery

Your child's implant system will be programmed by experienced pediatric audiologists who specialize in cochlear implantation. Customizing your child's cochlear implant map to meet their unique needs is critical to your child's success. Our audiologists have experience programming all types of FDA-approved implant systems, including those with specialized electrode arrays. 

Our cochlear implant audiologists are vigilant and have expertise in determining whether your child’s device is working correctly. It is very important that proper function be maintained and problems addressed so that your child's progress will not be affected.

We also provide short-term hearing therapy to children who do not have a local provider or who may benefit from additional intensive therapy.

After surgery and during follow up, you will continue to have access to the hearing healthcare professionals on our implant team.

Our Team

Caring for your child is a dedicated and experienced implant team of pediatric audiologists, speech pathologists, social workers, music therapists, deaf educator, a psychologist, a registered nurse as well as support staff to help with scheduling, equipment and insurance.

Nancy M. Young, MD, is the program founder and medical director. She completed a neurotology (advanced ear surgery) fellowship in 1988 and is the first physician with this training to specialize in children. Her work also was featured in Chicago Magazine's 2008 “Top Doctor” issue.

The hospital's cochlear implant team has special expertise in:

  • Infants and young children – Our program has experience implanting and programming infants as young as 5 months of age
  • Difficult-to-test children
  • Child​ren diagnosed with auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder (ANSD)
  • Children with complicating medical conditions and unusual ear anatomy such as CHARGE syndrome and cochlear nerve deficiency
  • Hearing preservation surgery techniques for implant candidates with useful residual acoustic hearing

Equipment Donations

Donations of new and used hearing aids, FM systems and cochlear implant equipment are welcome. You will be provided with a letter acknowledging your in-kind donation for tax purposes. Please contact Emily Murray, cochlear implant program assistant, at 312.227.3730 or by e-mail at cochlearimplant@luriechildrens.org regarding donations.​